DWP signs 'unacceptable' £420,000,000 contract

Chris Chant, at the Institute for Government, Thursday 20 October 2011:

I think it’s completely unacceptable at this point in time to enter into contracts for longer than 12 months. I can’t see how we can sit in a world of IT, and acknowledge the arrival of the iPad in the last two years, and yet somehow imagine that we can predict what we’re going to need to be doing in two or three or five or seven or ten years time. It’s complete nonsense.

Reported by Guardian Government Computing, Wednesday 2 November 2011:

The Department for Work and Pensions has awarded a seven year application services contract worth £50m to £70m annually to Accenture, for work including the software needed to introduce its universal credit system.

Or to phrase it another way: something between £50,000,000 and £70,000,000 each year – let’s split the difference, and call it £60,000,000 – for 7 years. A grand total of £420,000,000.

6 thoughts on “DWP signs 'unacceptable' £420,000,000 contract”

  1. Wonder if they’ve learnt anything from the disastrous ATOS contract and remembered to put any performance clauses in….

  2. Funny you should ask. From the Cabinet Office website: ‘from 1 February 2011, Joe Harley CBE will assume the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the UK Government, in addition to his CIO and Director General responsibilities at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).’

  3. @DavidG You’ll never guess who Accenture say is going to be their main subcontractor for the work. It’s in the Guardian article.

  4. Prior to my freelancing ERP days I cut my teeth in a division that became a part of Atos Origin (now Atos) and worked for them for a couple of years. Perfectly capable of doing big things cost effectively and some very good people in there.
    The problem isn’t that. The problem is that working on large government contracts is notoriously tricky – there is political interference, complex contracts and the likelyhood of huge changes in strategic direction that undermine the work that went before.
    So the fees are often massive for a very good reason.
    In my ERP days I described government as a massive job creation scheme for developers because they couldn’t resist introducing new taxes, new regulations and so on, all of which had to be coded into the systems I worked on.
    I’ve also worked in my independent days on big government IT projects such as the French Ministry of Finance’s procurement system (guess who I was subcontracted by?) and it had a massive budget and was hugely over-engineered. Not because we devs, and the Accenture devs and consultants I worked with wanted it to be, but because that’s what was asked of us.
    So you’re right, but I think part of the problem is that government needs to learn to be cleverer in how it handles IT, how it specifies it, and in how it trusts its providers. But because of the politics, I doubt it can ever change significantly unless we move towards a leaner type of government.

  5. Spot on David.
    It will be interesting to see what the future g-cloud developers make of it. Media-specs can only get you so far… If they recruit some in-house people with the requisite skills that will help. The problem is you’d need a hell of a lot of them to successfully influence each govt. department.

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